Science fiction writer Douglas Adams predicted in his most famous novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that, in the future, there’d be no need to even press a button on the remote, that all you’d have to do would be “wave your hand in the general direction of the component and hope”.
While that technology may have seemed some way off when the first in the trilogy was published in 1979, this year, an increasing number of gizmos from PCs to TVs are moving in that direction.
Leap Motion’s £50 box aims to add gesture control to PCs with a sensor that watches as you flick, point and swipe in mid-air.
The gadget’s creators have been developing the Leap Motion box for the past four years. “We’ve been obsessed with one question,” they said: “how can we interact with computers in a better, more natural way? After many sleepless nights, we found the answer: The Leap Motion controller.”
A spokesman said: “With the Leap Motion controller, 3D gesture control has finally made it out of the lab and into real life. Typing? Seriously? That’s fine for writing a novel. But it’s hardly the most natural, intuitive way to communicate. The ability to control any application with nuanced hand and finger movements is already transforming the way we interact with computers. And we’re just getting started.”
Developed in San Francisco, Leap Motion works with similar technology to that used by Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect but, according to its makers, it is much more accurate. In fact Leap Motion claims it is 200 times more accurate than any other device currently on the market.
It means you can scroll through items on your computer screen with just the wave of a finger, even writing notes, or signing documents in the air – it’s a bit like the high-tech version of waving sparklers about on Fireworks’ Night.
Just the size of a flash drive, the device could eliminate the need for a mouse. It’s easy to get started – as once the gadget installs its software to your computer, it needs only a swipe of the hand to calibrate with its user.
A statement from Leap Motion said: “It sounds too good to be true, we know. But that’s what we specialise in around here. Leap represents an entirely new way to interact with your computers. It’s more accurate that a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard and more sensitive than a touchscreen.”
Leap Motion believes the invention could change the way we interact with a whole range of gadgets. CEO and co-founder Michael Buckwald, said: “In addition to the Leap for computers, our core software is versatile enough to be embedded in a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, cars and refrigerators.
“One day, 3D motion control will be in just about every device we interact with and, thanks to the Leap, that day is coming sooner than anyone expected. Games like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja are more engaging than ever with a physical swipe through the air instead of a swipe on a screen.”
The gadget is available to pre-order for $69.99 but those who have managed to get their hands on review copies of the Leap Motion are already raving about it. Wired described it as “the best gesture-control system we’ve ever tested” and The Verge said: “We’ve seen the next big thing in computing.”